15 December 2016
Dear Memo users,
As some of you already know from conversations over the last few weeks, we recently made the difficult decision to move on from building Memo. The reason is simple — although many of our early adopters loved the product, we haven’t been able to achieve the growth that would justify additional investments, be that time or money.
Thank you to everyone who tried some of the many versions of the app we shipped over the last year — and especially to those who took their time to give us countless hours of feedback and encouragement. We really appreciate each of those conversations! A special thanks to everyone who created or curated new memos. Although the community never got to large scale, it was amazing to hear from everyone who discovered ideas they might not otherwise have come across and that made a difference in their life or work.
The app is now offline, but if you’d like to receive a copy of the memos you wrote or saved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org by 31 January 2017.
Many of you have asked why we think Memo didn’t work out. Startup failures are mostly over-determined, so it’s hard to single out one cause. We suspect one of the contributing factors is the current state of social media and how we use it. In the last few years, social media has evolved into a cut-throat competition for attention and the result appears to be a “race to the bottom of the brain stem”, at least for now. More than previous years, 2016 made it clear that winning content must tap into one of our most basic desires – food, gossip, sex – or tribal identities – “news” that reinforce our current beliefs or identities.
Learning about ideas that have withstood the test of time is tremendously valuable to both individuals and society. Unfortunately, in contrast to news, there is no natural trigger for them to spread and they provide no immediate “kick” the way content that tickles our basic instincts do. When we started working on Memo, we had a hypothesis that we could engineer an app using social feedback, high-density content units, and repetition to tip the scale in the other direction. However, we have come to believe that those tools are insufficient to achieve the growth a social media app needs today.
Fortunately, more and more people are realizing that digital addiction and its consequences for both productivity and wellbeing are holding us back. We look forward to seeing others attack this problem and hope that someone is able to productize what we tried to do with Memo: a way to discover, organize, and apply ideas that matter.
Jan & Carl